Electronic Communications – the Engine of Knowledge Based Economy

Lets start with few questions which answers I presume: How many minutes (hours) have you spent today talking on your mobile and fixed telephone. How many SMS and e-mail messages have you sent and received in the last 24 hours?

It is beyond any doubt that electronic communications are foundation of our new life style, everyday they save our time, finances and energy, not only in the sphere of communications, but even more thanks to triple play they provide us access to quality contents and knowledge.

Yet, there are other questions which answers are worrying: Do you pay too much for ICT services and are the high prices related to the fact that there is apparent misbalance between communication and information part (88% versus 12%)? Do you, and especially your children feel safe with the new ICT (internet, mobile phones with cameras and bluetooth), both from the aspects of privacy and security? How can internet access be easier and cheaper for schools, households, small and medium enterprises, rural areas, disabled people – people left on the other side of the digital divide? How convergence and digitalization of e-contents and their universal, standard and interoperable distribution will be realized in Macedonia and what are the challenges?

And finally, issues that are of strategic interest for transformation of the Republic of Macedonia into knowledge based society: Is ICT strategic sphere for the Republic of Macedonia in which the country will invest budget finances that would be returned with the development and export activities of this young and potentially powerful economic sphere? Can ICT support the long-expected economic growth indirectly through creation added value in Macedonian economy that should be rapidly restructured from industrial into service economy, following the developed countries? Researches show that development and investments in ICT have direct impact on increasing of GDP.

Apart from the measures that address the abovementioned issues, great attention has been paid to the Fund for development of information society (from the aspect of research and development of products and services that would be competitive advantage for our economy on the world market, additional financing of the internationally supported projects, building academic network throughout the territory of the Republic of Macedonia as well as financing projects for development of information society).

Fundamental competitive advantages of a small economy are neither cheap labor nor low taxes. Fundamental competitive advantages of a small economy are knowledge of employees, their creativity, pro-activeness, communicability, expertise. Regarding the globalization, an economy can be highly competitive and to survive at the world market only if invest in the knowledge of the citizens. Creation of highly specialized markets (so called niche markets) is one of the main challenges for providing long term sustainability of our economy. Yet, the knowledge is beyond necessary for such market specialization. And the knowledge is acquired by access to information base. The most efficient platforms for distribution of information are electronic communications and information technology. Through direct influence on the development of such platforms we indirectly but powerfully influence our economic future. It is necessary to bridge the gap between Republic of Macedonia and new EU member states (as basic reference for comparison). But all this is possible only in economies that care about investments in research and development of ICT products and services.

Considering all open issues and the necessity of bridging the divide between Macedonia and new EU member states (as base reference that we should considered at comparison) quickly Ministry of transport and communications at the end of 2006 started with drafting National strategy for development of electronic communications with information technologies (NSDECIT) in cooperation with representatives of all sectors. We wrote about this a month ago. Apart from legal obligation for development of this strategy and the need of supporting the implementation of National strategy for development of information society in the Republic of Macedonia. It is interesting that a special attention has been paid to the creation of Fund for development of information society (for research and development of products and services that would be competitive advantage to our economy at the world market, additional financing of projects from the field of research and development, creating academic network in Macedonia, as well as financing projects for development of information society).

Foundation Metamorphosis supported by OSCE and TATS/EAR organized public debate about “Increasing broadband internet penetration in Macedonia” and published the conclusions about enhancing the quality of the text dedicated to broadband in the realms of NSDECIT dedicated to broadband internet.

NSDECIT contains part that threats electronic communication and legal framework, radio-frequency spectrum, universal service and media digitization, and influence of freeing radio-frequency spectrum. Activities for enhancing competition in broadband internet are preparatory phase for drafting separate Broadband strategy and resolving problems with competition in broadband internet, and addressing the manner of resolving problems related to electronic communications from the aspect of local self-governance units, small and medium enterprises, academic networks, and the broadband internet users in general. Information about the need of adopting NSDECIT was approved by the Government of the Republic of Macedonia without remarks. Thus, the public debate on the document can start and the comments will be incorporated within the text, and then the document will be submitted for approval to the Government and the Parliament of the Republic of Macedonia.

Final documents as well as procedure for comments and suggestions are published at the website of the Ministry of Transport and Communications. All interested citizens and institutions are welcomed to join the public debate. It would be very good if declarative support evolves into concrete and sustainable support for implementation of the projects from the two complement documents – NSDECIT and NSDIS. By realization of the measures provided in the two documents we will be at least few steps closer to EU. But, that is not the main argument. Economic benefit will be ours, earned. Lets use the advantage of the small countries – chance for relatively easy and quick transformation and follow the example of Estonia and Slovenia.

Jovan Petrov


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